My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
The 12th (and last) declaration of our fourth diocesan synod has three paragraphs. The first paragraph states: “Each parish is a member of the diocese and of the universal Catholic Church. As such, each parish has an obligation to contribute to the operational expenses of the diocese and the Apostolic See. Following the Biblical model of tithing, parishes shall tithe approximately 10 percent of their designated annual income to the diocese, which shall be used to fund the operations of the Diocesan Curia, payment of assessments to the Catholic Conference of Illinois and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, financial contributions to the Apostolic See in accord with canon 1271, and donations to national and international collections.”
It is an essential aspect of our Catholic identity that we understand that we belong to the wider Catholic community beyond our local parish. The word “catholic” in fact means “universal,” so we belong to the universal church throughout the world as well as to our local diocese. Priests are collaborators with their diocesan bishop and bishops are successors of the Apostles in union with the Pope, who is the successor of St. Peter. As individuals tithe to their parishes, the parishes in turn will tithe with the diocese, which in turn contributes to the needs of the universal church in Rome and throughout the world.
The second paragraph states: “Parish tithing will replace the Annual Catholic Services Appeal and regularly-scheduled second collections. Parishioners who wish to make additional donations to the scheduled diocesan, national and international collections may still do so by placing the envelope with their designated donation in the regular collection. Special second collections will be taken in support of the Annual Missionary Plan of Cooperation and may still be taken up from time to time to assist victims of natural disasters and other extraordinary causes.”
The Annual Catholic Services Appeal has been the mechanism for supporting the ministries of the diocese for the past several years. Our final ACSA report for 2017 shows we had 10,568 donors who pledged $2,913,308.57 and paid $2,899,354.57 on our goal of $4,206,472. We have approximately 146,000 Catholics in our diocese, so having 10,568 donors means that about 7 percent of our Catholics contributed to the support of their diocese. By having the parishes tithe to the diocese from their total income, in effect all those who contribute to their local parish will also be supporting the diocese. We will no longer physically pass the basket for second collections for the various diocesan, national and international causes, but people may still support these causes by placing the envelope with their designated donation in the basket with the regular collection. Special second collections will be taken in support of the missions and may still be taken up from time to time to assist victims of natural disasters and other extraordinary causes, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
The third paragraph states: “The diocesan bishop shall appoint a committee, whose purpose is, in consultation with the Diocesan Finance Council and Presbyteral Council, and subject to the approval of the diocesan bishop, to define what constitutes the annual parish income for the determination of a formula to calculate the amount that is subject to the approximate 10 percent tithe. Such process should take into consideration the goals of the diocese to build up the Body of Christ, to support Catholic formation and education, and to recognize the differences in parishes (e.g., those with an abundance of material wealth and those without, those that operate parish schools and those that do not). Such formula should attempt to be fair and just to all, while at the same time provide adequate financial resources to the diocese, so that the diocese can accomplish its intended mission.”
I appointed this committee shortly after the conclusion of our diocesan synod last year. The committee includes two pastors chosen from the Presbyteral Council, a pastor and a layman who are members of the Diocesan Finance Council, the chairman of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, the director of the Office for Development, the director of the Office for Finances and the Vicar General/ Moderator of the Curia. In addition to developing the formula for the parish 10 percent tithe to the diocese, I have asked the committee to work out a timeline to transition from the current ACSA model to the new formula. The committee has met several times, but has not yet finalized the formula or the timetable, so we will conduct the Annual Catholic Services Appeal in 2018 for at least another year.
My hope is that this approach will help us to be more Catholic in our support of the church at the diocesan, national and international levels as well as at the local parish level.
May God give us this grace. Amen.